Singer-songwriter and fellow grammar nerd Bob Hillman has released his latest album, Lost Soul, after a decade away from the stage:
He: Do you have a viewpoint on the serial comma?
Me: I’m a huge fan of an Oxford comma.
He: Me too! There’s no reason not to use them. There’s no risk if you include it, and there’s risk if you don’t, so why wouldn’t you include it? I’ve had career-limiting arguments about the Oxford comma in the business side of my life. I can’t let it go. I should probably work on that aspect of my personality.
Hillman used his knack for turning a phrase (and yes, for grammar as well) and had what he calls “a decent run” as a singer/songwriter in the late 90s-early 2000s; after graduating from college, he relocated to New York to pursue songwriting, where he found a supportive group of fellow writers whose goal was to write one song every a week. “I did all those dues-paying things, open mic nights, booking gigs, and then I met Suzanne Vega. We became friends, and I asked her if I could open for her on a few dates on the west coast, and she said yes. I ended up opening for her of about a year all over the U.S. and Europe,” explains Hillman, who found himself with an agent and a producer financing his albums, but not really gaining industry traction. “I moved to California for love, then to Iowa for love, decided to go to business school, and chucked music for a while.”
Equipped with a graduate degree in business, his creativity, and again, those lovely grammar skills, Hillman began working in marketing campaigns for major corporations with household-name brands, but he missed the ability making music gave him to speak with candor and irreverence, missed being around other musicians, and sharing his work with others. After meeting and befriending his musical hero, Peter Case, frontman of 70s-era Los Angeles rock band The Plimsouls, he decided to give music another go. “Peter taught me how to play acoustic music with rock n’ roll energy. He was singing about homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, and approached it differently, the energy behind it resonated with me,” Hillman says. “We became friends, and he’s been such an encouragement to me, giving me feedback and advice. We decided to make an album together.”
Hillman returned to his passion, working with Case to make Lost Soul, which came out March 25th. “At this point in my career, I feel like I’m in it for the right reasons. I’m not desperate to become famous, I don’t feel the need to be competitive with other musicians, I just want to write songs. I want to hang out and collaborate with other musicians,” he says. “I know there’s an audience out there, and I want to reach those people with the tools available to me.”